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Rep. Luis Gutierrez on Obama La Raza speech: President needs to do more

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below, from Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.)

When it Comes to Obama and Immigration, Those

Shouting "Yes He Can" ("Si Se Puede") Are Right

President Has Broad Powers to Target Enforcement at Criminals and

Spare Some Immigrants from His Record-Setting Pace of Deportations

(Washington, DC) - Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) reacted to President Obama's address to the national annual conference of the National Council of La Raza in Washington. At one point in the President's speech, referring to his ability to exercise discretion in immigration enforcement, the President said, "Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own." At that point, many in the crowd chanted "Si Se Puede" and "Yes You Can," interrupting his speech momentarily. Tomorrow, Rep. Gutierrez will speak on a panel at the NCLR conference (at 10:30 a.m.) and will also address a rally in front of the White House in Lafayette Park (which starts at 3:00 p.m.). The following is a statement by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez:

I agree with those in the audience who said "Si Se Puede" and "Yes You Can" when the President said he could not do anything about deportations. I have been traveling the country the past three months asking him not to take the law into his own hands, but to exercise the broad discretionary powers he has under current law that allows him to prioritize individual deportations.

Indeed the President acknowledged that his Administration is trying to prioritize deportations for serious criminals and threats, and I have encouraged him to do more to put non-criminals, young people, and the spouses and parents of U.S. citizens at the back of the line. Twenty-three Democratic Senators, two former INS General Counsels, and his own Homeland Security staff agree he has this power under current law. Republicans like Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith and Senator David Vitter have filed bills to take that power away from this President, so I think they agree with me and the audience that he has powers under current law. So far, according to the Obama Administration, they are using this discretionary power in fewer cases than the previous President and they are deporting more people than any previous President.

We need the President to fight for us and to make it clear he is doing -- and not just saying -- everything possible to help. The question is whether the President will exercise the powers he has under current law to give DREAM Act students and other immigrants relief from deportation when it is in the national interest of the United States. But he has to expend the political capital to do it, which he has been reluctant to do. The Latino and immigrant voters I talk to -- and those at NCLR conference -- seem to think that his personal investment in helping immigrant families is lacking.

This White House is proud of their deportation and increases in border security, but it is simply not the case that the President's hands are tied when it comes to enforcement and people, like those in the audience, know it.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 25, 2011 5:56 PM.

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